“The worst thing about the massacre was killing my neighbor; we used to drink together.” said a Hutu mother as she reflected on killing the Tutsi children next door in the Rwandan genocide. “His cattle would graze on my land. He was like a relative.” But one day someone from the government told her that the Tutsis were her enemies, gave her a club to kill them with, and she did.
It feels impossible to conceive of this kind of level of madness. Perhaps we can wrap our minds around an individual case here and there, but a whole mob or nation losing their mind collectively is something else. Or at least it seems so at first. But once we pause and look throughout time, we see things like the war in Ukraine, the attempted insurrection in D.C., Nazi Germany, the American lynching trees of white mobs, and the Roman lynching tree upon which Jesus himself was hung.
“Theologically speaking, Jesus was the ‘first lychee,’ who foreshadowed all the lynched black bodies on American soil,” says theologian James H. Cone. “He was crucified by the same principalities and powers that lynched black people in America.”
The principalities and powers that often rage in the natural realm are on fire in the spiritual realm, devising local and widespread plans for destruction through both individuals and mobs. I’ve seen it many times myself in the demented smirks of manifested demons during deliverance sessions when they get excited to brag about how they’ve ruined someone’s life.
“The devil was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him,” says Jesus. “When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” And who would know this better than Jesus himself who was sentenced to a cross after “Satan entered into Judas,” as the chief priests deceptively stirred up the mob in Jerusalem—the physical and the spiritual co-opting together for mutual destruction. And when we partner with the murder and lies of the devil (be it as a mob or an individual), we become guilty of Jesus’ indictment: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”
Like Wonder Woman slaying a false god over Nazi Germany, giving way to a mob having to face what they’ve done, so do we need Jesus to liberate us from the grip of our false gods. For until we allow Jesus to truly free us so that we can make him King and God, we will always naturally default to the worship of false kings and false gods—the kind of kings and gods that are capable of wars, insurrections, concentration camps, lynchings trees and crosses. And when we belong with these false powers, such methods of destruction belong with us, singing, “Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.”
But when we belong with Jesus, such things are forgiven us. For Good Friday offers us a glimpse of a different kind of King who reigns over a different kind of Kingdom. Not one of murder, lies, hatred and death—but one of life, truth, love and abundance—for the Christian King reigns differently than the other Kings. For while Jesus was being lynched upon a tree, he had the audacity to proclaim, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
And that kind of Kingdom is lived out in the forgiveness of our own crosses. For where there is great tragedy among the citizens of Heaven, there is great opportunity to display the Kingdom of Heaven. While the cross of Jesus was found in the Amish school shooting of 2006, the forgiveness of the cross was seen in the Amish community quickly forgiving the shooter and donating money to the shooter’s family to help take care of them. While the cross of Jesus was found in the concentration camps that Corrie Ten Boom endured, the forgiveness of the cross was seen at a church service she was speaking at when a repentant guard asked her for forgiveness directly, bringing about great tears as a current flowed down her arm to their joined hands. While the cross of Jesus was found in the Charleston shooting at the hands of Dylann Roof, the forgiveness of the cross was found all over the court transcripts as the families of the victims took the stage and proclaimed forgiveness to him.
Good Friday carries with it a cross brought about by a mob and a government inspired by the principalities and powers of the hidden world. But Christianity is a movement upon which the cross hinges, not closes. And when we suffer upon our own crosses in the way that Jesus did, Heaven comes to earth on a moving truck and takes up residence in our horrors, taking claim of the earth around us as it pushes the powers of the underworld back. Christians are a people that rush the realm of Hades and knock their gates over, for the same crosses that take us there are the same crosses that get us out.